Tuesday, January 18, 2011

More than Rabbit Food Part 2 - Grilled Romaine Salad with Tomato and Eggplant Relish

Are you keeping up? How has January gone for you so far? Have you given in to temptation? Well, let me just say it has been a struggle for everyone I know! So, here we are ready for installment #2…What is that you say? Another salad? Well, we need to keep up on our diets and salad can be the perfect item to add to any menu that is economical and good for you.

However, we must address the fact that not all salads are created equal. Just because it says “salad” in the title doesn’t mean it is going to help your waste line. In fact, salad can be higher in calories than some fast food items. The key is knowing what your ingredients are.

Step 1: Don’t use (or use very little) of cream or egg based dressing such as ranch or mayo.
Step 2: Know your cheese. Yes, you can put some on your salad, but be mindful. Your salad should not be a “cheddar cheese salad with lettuce”.
Step 3: Protein is a good idea for your salad. Left over ham, turkey, mushrooms, or tofu are all good choices. Remember, use sparingly.
Step 4: Lots of veggies! Get creative!
Step 5: Including fruit adds texture, sweetness, and nutrition!

What is that you are saying? You want us to give you a recipe? Well, let me tell you about this great little salad Ryan came up with. It is a Grilled Romaine Salad. Yes, you can in fact grill lettuce. It doesn’t turn out slimy or limp; it stays crisp and cool on the outside and turns a little warm and charred on the inside. The key is keeping your head of romaine intact and using a high heat on the grill or in the skillet. This particular salad comes with a little bit of bacon, mushrooms, and a warm tomato relish to make it a rounded out full meal rather than just a side salad! It has a lot of flavor and goes well with a Sauvignon Blanc. Enjoy!


1 tsp. Olive oil
1 romaine heart
2 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled
2 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and drained, bacon grease reserved (if desired)
2 oz. Enoki mushrooms, trimmed from bunch in ½ inch pieces
1 oz. parmesan cheese, grated, or 6 - 7 one-inch shavings with vegetable peeler (optional)
1 oz. capers, drained (optional)
2 Roma tomatoes
Salt and pepper (to taste)


1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. white sugar
1 tsp. Lemon juice
Salt and pepper (to taste)

1. Begin preparation for tomato/eggplant relish, if desired (directions below).
2. Cut a small slice off the romaine root to remove the brown parts, but leave largely intact. This will help keep the romaine together while grilling and serving. Pull off a few outer leaves that look brownish or tough. Clean romaine heart by cutting it in half lengthwise and running it under cold water. Pat dry.
3. Dice tomatoes, trim mushrooms from bunch, drain capers and set all aside.
4. If grilling, set grill to medium heat and lightly brush oil on romaine halves. If cooking on stove, heat oil (or leftover bacon grease) in12-inch skillet over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Salt and pepper romaine on both sides to taste. Place romaine hearts cut-side down on grill or in skillet. Some sizzling or popping may occur if not totally dried. Cook just until inside is slightly browned and wilted, about 3-5 minutes, but start checking at 2 minutes and every 30 seconds after that.
5. Put vinegar, lemon juice and sugar in mixing bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil. Once combined, taste for flavor and add salt and pepper as needed. Dressing should be a little loose.
6. Once romaine hearts are to desired doneness, place on plate cut-side up. Top with 2-3 tbls. of the tomato/eggplant relish (if desired), cheeses, mushrooms, tomatoes, capers and bacon. Quickly whisk dressing again to recombine and drizzle lightly over salad. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Optional – tomato/eggplant relish:

1 cup diced Roma tomatoes (½ inch pieces)
1 cup diced eggplant (½ inch pieces)
¼ cup diced onion (fine dice)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. lemon juice


1. In medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-low to medium heat. Add onion and sweat until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and sweat just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add tomatoes, eggplant and lemon juice and stir. The lemon juice will help the eggplant from turning too brown, though some darkening will occur during cooking.
3. Continue over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. Once vegetables are reduced and the liquid is slightly thickened (about 10 minutes), salt and pepper to taste and spoon over salad while warm.

What’s that you further say? That’s too many self-imposed questions???

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More than Rabbit Food Part 1 - Ham and Spinach Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette

Happy 2011! With the New Year comes many resolutions: learn an instrument, mend relationships, read more books, and the ever-popular, lose weight. Being overweight myself I’ve tried many different times to lose weight by many different methods. But the thing I dread most is having to change what I eat.

Maybe it’s because inside I’m really still 6 years old and want to eat what I want, when I want, as much as I want, or I’m holding my breath ‘til I turn blue. While that is definitely true, I think it also has something to do with supposed “health food” being, well, boring. Don’t get me wrong, this whole blog is dedicated to eating as often as possible out of your garden and in season, and anything you take out of a garden you’ve shown tender-loving-care to is going to be so delicious you can’t help but eat healthy.

Maybe it’s not the food itself, but the preparation that gets me down. Go to almost any restaurant, look at their salads and you’ll see an ocean of iceberg lettuce with the same old watery cucumber and under ripe tomato, topped with, if you’re lucky, a bland chicken breast.

None of those ingredients in and of themselves are bad or boring (well, maybe the iceberg), but when it’s the same old thing time after time it’s no wonder I’d rather go for deep-fried whatever. The perception many people have, including myself at times, is that to eat healthy you can never eat anything interesting ever again. To counter this mind-numbing monotony, the next few posts are going to be about salads you can make which are not only delicious, but diverse and interesting enough to make you want to eat them all the time.

Part 1 is probably the simplest salad, but really refreshing and satisfying. Great as a first course or side dish, or make a huge amount for a dinner portion. It is also great with leftover meat like ham, chicken, or beef.

Ham and spinach salad with Champaign Vinaigrette

-1 Cup of shredded leftover meat of choice (we chose ham)
-2-3 cups of baby spinach (you can chop the spinach or leave it as is)
-1 Stalk of celery cut into ¼ inch pieces (remember to also use the inside leaves of the celery-they have a wonderful flavor)
-1 carrot peeled and chopped into ¼ pieces
-1/2 Portobello mushroom chopped into ½ inch pieces
-1 red bell pepper
-1 minced shallot
-1/2 apple chopped into ¼ inch pieces (make sure to put a little lemon juice on these and a pinch of salt)
-1 clove of garlic-grated
-Handful of feta cheese
-1/4 cup of chopped pecans
-Pinch of salt and pepper


-1 tablespoon of Champaign vinegar or vinegar of choice
-3 tablespoons of olive oil
-1 teaspoon of mustard (Dijon)
-Salt and pepper
-Dried basil

Directions for salad:

Either roast or hold the sweet pepper or bell pepper over a flame. Once skin is charred, put pepper into a bag for 5-10 minutes. Then take it out of the bag, peel the skin off and dice the pepper. Then make sure you have cut up all of your veggies and shredded your ham.

Now you can make your dressing. Wisk together the vinegar and mustard. Slowly add the olive oil and wisk vigorously. Once you have obtained desired thickness add salt, pepper, and basil to taste.

At this point you need 2 mixing bowls. In one mix all of your veggies and add salt and pepper to taste. In your second bowl put your dressing at the bottom of the bowl and add the veggies and mix.

Plate the salad: In your bowl or dish of choice add your veggie mix. The place shredded ham on top. Finish with the pecans and feta cheese a little drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper.